What type of clout does the term “convention and visitors bureau” have? According to focus groups of 2,000 CVB stakeholders (including government officials, consumers, meeting professionals, hoteliers and CVB professionals) conducted last year by Anacortes, Wash.-based BrandStrategy Inc., the monikers “convention and visitors bureau” and “CVB” have little or no recognition among most consumers, although they are familiar to most meeting professionals and others in the tourism business.
Among other findings:
" Most consumers (71 percent) have never interacted with CVBs.
" Meeting professionals have had inconsistent experiences with bureaus; association planners have had the most positive experiences.
" The general public is very supportive of tourism efforts in their local communities and supports the use of government funds to promote tourism. -- L.G.
“The industry is so ripe for repositioning.”
After 91 years representing
the interests and image of convention and visitor bureaus
nationwide, the Washington, D.C.-based International Association of
Convention & Visitor Bureaus has done a complete about-face,
thanks to one basic fact: Despite decades of effort, most people
outside this business and even many inside it still don’t have a
clear picture of what a CVB is and does.
So, the organization wants to scrap the term “CVB.” In a
dramatic repositioning effort, IACVB is poised to become the
Destination Marketing Association, or DMA, with the tag line (which
IACVB terms a “byline”), Representing Destination Marketing
Organizations Worldwide, pending adoption by the board in March.
(The new name was proposed last December, and in January members
were asked to weigh in on the change via a survey linked to IACVB’s
website at www.iacvb.org.)
The radical moves don’t stop there: IACVB is recommending that
member bureaus follow suit and become “destination marketing
organizations,” or DMOs.
“The industry is so ripe for repositioning,” says IACVB
president and CEO Michael D. Gehrisch. “There is so much
competition for bureaus now, both amongst themselves and from other
areas like the Internet and third parties.” Clarifying the role of
bureaus by giving them a name that actually describes what they do,
he argues, will go far toward strengthening the industry.
“When people ask me what I do for a living, they give me a
blank stare or assume I run a convention center,” says Gehrisch.
“But when I explain how IACVB markets destinations, they get
Paving the way
“A lot of people think this happened overnight, but it has
taken three years,” says Maura Gast, FCDME, executive director of
the Irving (Texas) Convention & Visitors Bureau and member of
the IACVB board. The brains behind this comprehensive initiative
are the Brand Leadership Campaign Strategic Advisory Group,
comprised of CVB members and headed by Reint Reinders, president
and CEO of the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, and
branding expert Duane Knapp, president of Anacortes, Wash.-based
BrandStrategy Inc. IACVB’s board members also have kept abreast of
developments and given their stamps of approval to all the measures
introduced thus far.
As a first step, the association researched how bureaus are
perceived in the industry and in the general population (see “Say
What?,” above). Next came a “brand promise,” a statement that
represents the organization’s commitment to the industry and from
which future strategies and actions will be based (see “Making Promises”).
The group also has created two online guides for members: The
BrandScience Guide for Destination Research, to help CVBs establish
studies that will help them define the brand promise, name and
overall strategy, and The BrandScience Guide for Destination RFPs,
“a guide to help CVBs select the right expertise to create a
winning destination brand,” as the official description notes.
Last month, IACVB published Destination BrandScience, a how-to
for bureaus to brand and reposition themselves. The book is free
for IACVB member bureaus. The association also will hold a series
of branding clinics, including web seminars, to acquaint members
with branding and to demonstrate how repositioning is in their best
An early step in IACVB’s repositioning plan was to create the following industry “brand promise,” adopted in December 2004.
“We are the visitor’s and meeting professional’s trusted partner the heart, soul and energy of our destination. We drive economic success and enhance the quality of life in our communities. Our communities appreciate our contribution: The better the CVB, the better the experience.”
Now a question remains: Will the rebranding initiative prove
“I think the new name will fly,” says Maura Gast, who also serves
with the Brand Leadership Campaign Strategic Advisory Group. “We
paid for professional guidance and research [the $200,000 tab was
funded by IACVB and the IACVB Foundation], and we should pay
attention to it.” If many members dislike the proposed name, the
board will have to offer up an alternative, she adds.
A key concern of CVBs is what the implications of a name change
are for individual bureau monikers. “Those decisions need to be
made on a local level,” says IACVB board president Melvin Tennant
(also executive director of the San Antonio Convention &
Visitors Bureau). “IACVB is a volunteer organization and cannot
mandate that CVBs change their names,” he notes.
IACVB hopes its members will at least adopt a byline that
reinforces the fact that the bureau is the official destination
marketing organization for the community it represents, adds
In the weeks following the proposed name change, member
comments on the association’s website reflected a wide range of
opinions. “Some people are disappointed and frustrated,” says Maura
Gast. “But a number of CVB executives are behind it 100
Gary Sherwin, vice president, market
development/communications, for the Palm Springs Desert Resorts
Convention and Visitors Authority, is a strong advocate of IACVB’s
actions. “This is the time for change,” he says. “If we don’t
reinvent ourselves, someone else will.”
Another proponent of change is Steve Moore, president and CEO
of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I applaud
IACVB’s branding concept, the inclusive response timeline, the
formal consideration after such input and the educational
programming around its implementation,” he says. “While many CVBs
including ours might not abandon their brand equity earned within
their respective communities with a name change at this time, the
DMA concept will prove to be a winner with the group and consumer
leisure travel markets.”
Others are more skeptical. Tom Galyon, president and CEO of the
Corpus Christi (Texas) Convention & Visitors Bureau, has some
concerns about the use of the word marketing in the name
Destination Marketing Association and for the use of “destination
marketing organization” instead of the familiar CVB tag. “I suggest
the name be destination management organizations, as we are
managers more than marketers,” he says.
But Mel Tennant is confident the move makes sense. “I believe
there was enough homework and background work done. We did not do
this in a vacuum; we have minimized whatever risk there might